Edmund Alexander De Schweinitz.

The history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr online

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into the Hymnals published by their descendants of the
Renewed Unitas Fratrum."

What the Hymnals say with regard to the general character
of the songs of the Brethren, is still more clearly set forth by
Bishop Stephan, who adds important information touching
the tunes. In that letter to the Elector Frederick the Third
of the Palatinate, which we have mentioned in another
connection, he writes :

" Our fathers have taught us not only to preach the doctrines
of religion from the pulpit, but also to frame them in hymns.
In this way our songs become homilies. Experience having
shown us that this principle bears good fruits among the
Bohemians, we have introduced it among the Germans also.
Some of our hymns date back to the time of Hus and the
Taborites ; others are new, and among these several have been
composed by noblemen." Our tunes are, in part, the old Grego-

arabesques of the title page are different from those of the former edition
at the top of the page stands the name Jehovah, in Hebrew characters ;
at the bottom is an Agnus Dei, surrounded by crowned saints singing and
playing the harps of God ; the Preface is not signed by the three editors,
but by " The Seniors and Ministers of the churches of the Brethren in
Bohemia, Moravia and Poland ;" and the first part, as well as the second
and third, has an ornamented title page of its own, in addition to the
g neral title. A second copy of the same edition, with the Psalms in metre
appended, is preserved in the Bethlehem Archives. This copy has an
interesting history. It was carried by Paul Miinster, strapped to his back
from Moravia to Herrnhut, in Saxony, in 1729, when he fled for the
Gospel's sake. He deemed it his greatest treasure ; all his other possessions
he left behind. In the Library of the Moravian Historical Society, at
Nazareth, there is a copy printed at Lissa, in 1639. This edition was
revised by Daniel Vetter.

" Croeger, I, p. 235, etc., and II, p. Ill, etc., gives fifty-nine hymns
of the Bohemian Brethren found in the various German Hymnals of the
Renewed Brethren's Church. There are many more. The American
edition of the English Hymnal contains the following seven: Nos. 2, 37,
54, 174, 228, 828, and 922. The following additional hymns are given in
the Second Series of Catharine Winkworth's Lyra Germanica: "Once more
the day-light shines abroad," p. 69 ; " Now lay we calmly in the grave,"
p. 117; " Faith is a living power from heaven," p. 160.

^* An interesting example is the Hymn We gmeno Kryda daufame,
("We hope in the name of Christ,") Boh. Hymnal, 1615, p. 378, composed
by Barons Krajek, Prostiborsky, Tym, and Bishop Augusta conjointly,
in 1535, when they were about to go to Vienna to present the Confession
to Ferdinand.


rian, which Hus used, and in part bori'owed from foreign nations,
especially the Germans. Among these latter tunes are popular
airs according to which worldly songs are sung. At this
strangers, coming from countries where they have heard them
used in this way, take offence. But our hymnologists have
purposely adopted them, in order through these popular notes to
draw the people to the truth which saves. We find no fault
with intentions which are so good." '^

To a musically uncultured ear the tunes are not euphonious ;
and the versification of the German hymns, on account of
their literal rendering from the Bohemian, is often hard and
rough. Nevertheless both tunes and hymns have excited,
even in modern times, profound admiration. Herder, than
whom no writer of the last century had a more thorough
knowledge of sacred poetry, says :

" The hymns of the Bohemian Brethren are instinct with a
simplicity and devotion, with a fervor and spirit of brotherly
love, which we must not hope to imitate, because these
characteristics no longer exist among us." "

Doring, another authority, says :

" It is the duty of the conscientious hymnologist to point to
the old songs of the Brethren, which constitute a precious
treasury of tunes that can not be sufficiently extolled. * * *
Few composers have been able to strike, with the same correctness
and effect as was done in the songs of these little churches, the
tone of a piety strong in its faith, of an earnestness which ever
reproved sin, of prayers that were most fervent, and of a joy
that was godly. * * * To render these songs, or even a
mere selection of them, more accessible, would be a meritorious
work." ''

In response to this suggestion John Zahn has published
such a selection, both of hymns and tunes. The latter are,
to some extent, modernized. In his Preface he says : ^®

" Epistola Fr., etc., de cantionibus, Camerarius, p. 286.

" Croeger, II, p. 110.

'* Doring's Choralkunde, p. 61., cited by Zahn.

'® Zahn's Geistliche Lieder d. Briider. Nuremberg, 1875. Two of the
old tunes are retained in the German Moravian Tune Book of the present
day, namely 69 and 520.


" No other songs express, in so touching and childlike a way,
a consciousness of the necessity of redemption, joy in the Gospel
of the Incarnation of the Son of God, earnestness in the con-
flicts for holiness, and trust in the aid of God amidst all the
trials of earth. As to the tunes, many of them bear a character
peoiiliarly their own. When heard for the first time, they sound
strange ; but the oftener they are sung the deeper they pene-
trate the heart. Hence they are classed, by all connoisseurs
of evangelical psalmody, among the noblest productions of

If we turn to the time in which the hymns of the Brethren
were still in use, we will hear from various sides, but with one
voice, testimony of the same kind.

Joachim Camerarius, the distinguished Leipzig Professor,
writes to Cepolla, that he uses the new Hymnal with which
he has been presented almost daily, and that he and his
family often unite in its songs.^*^

Lasitius describes the impression which the singing of the
Brethren made upon him, by applying to himself the words
of St. Paul ill his first epistle to the Corinthians (14: 25):
*'And so, falling down on his face, he will worship God,
and report that God is in you of a truth."

In dedicating his exposition of the Psalms to Baron John
von Zerotin, Esrom Riidinger gives expression to the follow-
ing sentiments :

" Your churches surpass all others in singing. For where
else are songs of praise, of thanksgiving, of prayer and instruc-
tion so often heard ? Where is there better singing ? The newest
edition of the Bohemian Hymn Book, with its seven hundred
and forty-three hymns, is an evidence of the multitude of your
songs; and yet double that number have never been printed.
Three hundred and forty-six have been rendered into German ;
I wish that all the rest might be translated. If I understood
Bohemian, I would not wish or ask it, but do it. There is no
doubt with regard to the character of the hymns and the sing-
ing. Your churches sing what you teach, and many of the
hymns are real homilies. And since the people can be best
taught by hymns, why should these not contain all the essential
doctrines? Another advantage which your churches enjoy, is,
that the whole congregation sings and thus takes part in the

" Hist. Nachricht, pp. 22 and 23.


worship of God. That which, in the Hebrew Psalms, seems to
be beyond imitation, has been best imitated in the hymns of the
Brethren. Therefore I was deeply moved when as a stranger,
I, for the first time, heard your hymns and found that they were
used not only in public assemblies, but also in the family-circle
— in your own house and in other noble houses — at morning
and evening worship, before and after meals, with a devotion
w^hich, in your own case in particular, was most exemplary." ^*

Peter von Chlumecky, a Moravian writer of the present
(lay, adds:

" The wonderful songs in the Hymnals of the Brethren set
forth the ideal picture of the Slavonian's inner life. The deep
religious spirit of the people was poured out in these lays,
which lifted the soul of the singer up to God. Like the old
epics these Hymnals were not the work of a single mind ; the
people helped to edit them. Therefore it may, with great pro-
priety, be asserted that in these Hymnals was contained the
history of the religious development and of the poesia sacra
of the Slavonians of Moravia. They were a blossom of the
national life ; when this ceased to pulsate, those songs grew

Chlumecky's words, when compared with Riidinger's
description, show how great must have been the influence
which the hymns of the Brethren exercised upon the popular
mind. They used that gift of song with which the Czechs,
in all periods of their history, have been endowed, to the
edification of the Church, to the aAvakening of the religious
consciousness of the nation, to the glory of God. In the
cottage of the peasant, in the home of the burgher, in the
ancient castle of the baron, were heard the songs of Zion,
strengthening faith, enlivening hope, inspiring love, giving
tone to daily life.

'* Hist. Nachricht, p. 23, etc. ; Croeger, II, p. 109, etc. In the chapels
the singing was led by a precentor. There was no instrumental accompani-

^^ Chlumecky's Carl v. Zerotin u. s. Zeit, p. 266.



The Catechisms, Other Literary Works, and the Schools of
the Unitas Fratrum. A.D. 1517-1580.

Catechisms of 1522, 1554, and 1616. — Blahoslaw's New Testament and
other Works. — Sermons. — Metrical Psalms. — Histories. — Publication
Offices. — Schools. — College at Eibenschiitz. — Schools in Poland.

In point of importance the Catechisms of the Unitas

Fratrum rank next to its Hymnals. Of the first Catechism,

which was published in 1505, but is now lost, we have

spoken in another connection. The second was written, in

Bohemian, by Bishop Luke in 1521, and in the same year

translated into German, probably by John Horn. Both

versions appeared in 1522. This was the Catechism which

led to the controversy between Luke and Luther.^ It was

published in octavo form and bears the folloAving title:

Ein christliche vnterweysung Der klaynen Kinder jm Gelauben,

durch ein weyss einer Frag. M.D.XXIJ.

" Christian Instruction in the Faith, in the Form of Questions,
for little Children. 1522."

This Catechism originally had seventy-six questions and

answers. The first five are the following :

1. WJiat art thouf A rational creature of God and a mortal.
2. Why did God create theef That I should know and love Him,
and having the love of God, that I should be saved. 3. Upon
what does thy salvation depend f Upon three divine graces.
4. Name these graces. Faith, love, and hope. 5. Prove this.
St. Paul says: "And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, but
the greatest of these is charity."

' Vide pp. 226 and 234 of this History.


Tlie remaining questions and answers treat of faitli ; of tlie
commandments ; of love ; of salvation and eternal life ; of
tlie Trinity ; of honoring God ; of prayer ; of the Virgin
and the Saints; of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper;
of the service of God ; of false and true hope ; of mortal
affections ; and of the unity of believers. In the course of
the work are introduced the Apostles' Creed, the Ten
Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Lord's Prayer.^

The next Catechism of Avhicli we have any knowledge
was orio^inally written in Bohemian and translated into
German in 1554, by John George, who dedicated it to
Duke Albert of East Prussia. Its title is the following:
Catechismus Der Bechtghubigen Behemischen Bruder, Welclie
der Antichrist mit seinem Gotlosen anlicmg verfolget, vnd auss
Teuffelschem eingeben, Hass, Neid, vnd vnrcarheit fur Ver-
filhrer, Ficcarden, vnd Waldenser, etc., schilt vnd lestcrt, Alien
rechtscliaffenen gleubigen ziim trost vnd ivareni Bericht, Ver-
deutscht Durch Johannem Gyrc'k, Strelnensem, Pfarlierrn zu
Neidenburgh, in Brcvsscn, 3T.D.LIIII.

* The oldest copy known to exist belongs to the Royal Library of Dres-
den, and is rejiroduced by Zezsclnvitz in his Katecliisnien d. Waldenser u.
Boh. Bruder, pp. 39-57. This copy has seventy-five questions and answers;
but it omits tlie sixty-first, to which Luther took exception and which
. treats of honoring Christ in the Lord's Supper. In the edition of 1531,
found in Ehwalt, pp. 353-377, No. 61 is reinserted, and the title says that
this edition is a faithful reprint of the original, whereas other reprints
have been tampered with. Ehwalt's numbers, however, are wrong and
Nos. 63 and 64 have been omitted, evidently through an inadvertence.
Zezschwitz devotes his work to a comparison of this C'atecliism with that
of the Waldenses, to which he assigns tlie year 1498 as its date. He
asserts that the latter is the source from which the former was taken ;
and intimates that the visit of Bishop Luke to the AValdeuses, in 1497 and
1498, led him to write a new Catechism. Such a position, according to
Palacky's Waldenser, pp. 34 and 36, is untenable ("ganz u. gar ohne Be-
griindung"). Lideed the latest researches in the field of AValdensian
literature render it far more probable that the Waldenses based their
Catechism upon that of the Brethren. Many parts of the tAvo Catechisms
are identical. It is not unlikely that the foundation of that of the
Bretliren is a Catechism discovered by Palacky and supposed to have
been written by John Hus. (Documenta Hus, pp. 708-712.) Compare
The Catechism of tlie Boh. Brethren, by E. de Scliweinitz. Bethlehem. 1869.


"Catechism of the orthodox Bohemian Brethren, whom
Antichrist with his wicked followers jjersecutes, and insj)ired
by the devil, by hatred, envy, and lies, reviles and slanders as
Seducers, Picards, and Waldenses, etc. In order that all
upright believers may receive comfort and a true report, trans-
lated into German by John George, of Strehlen, Minister at
Neidenburg, in Prussia. 1554." ^

On the reverse of the title-page are printed the twenty^
second and twenty-third verses of the sixth chapter of St.
Luke's Gospel : there follow the Dedication to Duke Albert,
signed by John George; extracts from the thirty-third chapter
of Ezekiel, from the third chapter of St. Peter's first epistle,
from the fifteenth chapter of Jeremiah ; and the " Preface of
the Seniors of the Brethren." In this Preface they say, that
that pure and true Christian doctrine, without any hurtful
human additions, wiiich the Catechism sets forth, they hold
to be the doctrine of God to which the Holy Sciiptures bear
testimony. The work contains one hundred and eighty-seven
questions and answers. In 1560 appeared a second part with
the following title :

Das ander theil des Jleyllgen Catechismi, Das ist: Lehre
%md Beincht von dcr Heyligen Tauff, Beicht, Vergebung {oder
Aufflosung) der S'llnden, vnd dem Abentmal des Her r en,
Dessgleichen von der ewigen Seligkeit, eic. Gezogen aus ge-
meiner Lehr der RecMgleuhigen Behemischen Bruder, fur die'
Jungen Christen, Durch Johannem Gyrclc von Strelen, etc.
Psalm IIG : Ich gleuhe, Darub rede icli, Ich werde aber sehr
geplagt. GedrucJd zn Konigsperg in Preussen, Durch Johann
Daubman. M.D.LX.

" The other part of the Holy Catechism. That is : The
Doctrine and Exposition of Holy Baptism, of Confession, of
Forgiveness of Sins, and of the Supper of the Lord, also of
eternal Salvation, etc. Drawn from the doctrines of the orthodox
Bohemian Brethren, for young Christians. By John George, of
Strehlen, etc. Psalm 116 : I believed, therefore have I spoken :
I was greatly afflicted. Printed at Konigsberg in Prussia, by
John Daubman. 1560."

^ Given by Ehwalt, pp. 1-290, wlio adds, page for page, a Latin version
wliicli he found, in manuscript, in the Ivihrarv of Dantzic.


Tills worlv enil)races sixty-five questious aud answers relat-
ing to the subjects set forth iu the title. There are appended
instructions as to the use of the Lord's Prayer, as also
"Passages from the Holy Gospels" for the comfort of all

Finally, although it belongs to a later period, we adduce
the Latin Catechism. It bears the following: title :

Catechesis Cliristiana, ad lustifuendam piam Juventidem
Gonscripta; in qua summa docirince Dei proponitur et e.iplicatur.
Ex Boemico idiomate in latinum translata. Anno Domini:
M.DC.XVI. The colophon says: Hmdeci cis Albim. In
OJicina typograpjhica Martini Kleimcechteri.

"Christian Catechism, written for the Instruction of pious
Youth ; in which the substance of the Doctrines of God are
set forth and explained. Translated from the Bohemian ver-
nacular into Latin. A. D. 1616."

This work, which was probably adopted at Zerawic, in
1616, by the same Synod that issued the Baiio Disciplinai,
embraces two hundred and three questions and answers, and
iu many particulars resembles the Catechism of 1554.^ It is
known as the "Greater Catechism," in contradistinction to the
"Shorter Catechism," which existed both in German aud
Polish. When and by whom the original Bohemian was
written, we can not tell.

Thus it appears that the Brethren introduced into their
churches Catechisms in the Bohemian, German, Polish, and
Latin languages. The importance which they attached to
these manuals and to a systematic use of them, is evident from

* Given by Ehwalt, pp. 291-352.

* It is found in tlie form of foot-notes, in Ehwalt, pp. 20-289, reprinted
from the original which appeared in duodecimo form and a copy of
which was lent to him by Bishop Cassius, of Lissa. Besides the Catecliism
of Amos Comenius, of which we will speak in a later chapter, four others
are mentioned by Koecher, pp. 20-28: one of 1591, another of 1607; a
third of 1615, published at Bremen, in Greek, Latin, Bohemian, and
German, in parallel columns ; and a fourth, without date, being a threefold
mode of catechising. These are of minor importance and not farther
known. They were probably ijublished by individuals and not by the


the second article iu their Confession of 1573. This article
says :

"Our preachers recognize the Catechism as a sure guide in,
an established standard for, and an index to, all their instructions,
sermons and writings. Hence, with faithful care, they give all
diligence to inculcate in the hearts of Christians, and engraft in
the minds and lives of their hearers, the entire body of Truth
contained in these first and fundamental principles of religion.
* * * * In the same way they instruct little children,
that from their youth upward they may be practised in the chief
articles of the divine covenant, and learn to understand the true
service of God. Therefore, too, special services for the children
are instituted. * * * * Iu particular, however, is the
Catechism, with its first principles of true religion, diligently
taught to young people who begin a Christian life, before they
are admitted to the Lord's Table, which sort of instruction
serves to lead them to true repentance, as well as to the enjoy-
ment of the grace of faith in all its power." ^

Turning to the general literature of the Unitas Fratrum
we notice, first of all, a distinguished work by Blahoslaw.
It was a Bohemian version of the New Testament. At the
time in which it appeared there existed sixteen different
editions of the Testament; two — those of 1518 and 1525 —
having been issued by the Unity. But all these editions
were translated from the Vulgate. Blahoslaw's version, was
the first rendered from the original Greek, and constituted a
model of pure, flowing, idiomatic Bohemian, The volume
was published in 1565, in a beautiful style, with small but
clear type, and in the form of a pocket edition. Gindely
thinks it was printed at Eibenschiitz, where the Brethren
had established their fourth press. In 1568 a second edition,
in large octavo form, was issued.'^

Other works by the same author were: a Bohemian
Grammar, republished at Vienna iu 1857, and containing
a valuable list of all the Bohemian writers from Hus to

« Confessio, Das ist Bekenntnis, etc., Art. II, pp. 9-12.

' The publication of this New Testament led to an interesting corres-
pondence with Doctor Peucer, Malanchthon's son-in-law, who encouraged
Blahoslaw to translate the Old Testament also. Quellen, p. 287, etc., taken
from the L. F.


Augusta; a Treatise on Music, which appeared in 1558 and
a second edition in 1560; a Biography of Bishop Augusta;
an Apology of the Bohemian Hymnal ; a Treatise on Election
through Grace ; etc.

Augusta's works, both of a devotional and polemical
character, were numerous; Bishop Stephan issued a series
of Sermons on the Gospels and Epistles of the Ecclesiastical
Year; John Capito was the author of another series of
Sermons ; George Vetter translated the " Institutes of Calvin "
into Bohemian, and produced a metrical version of the
Psalms;^ This version was arranged according to the tunes
introduced by the Calvinists of France, and added to the
Bohemian Hymnal, constituting its last part. Riidinger
prepared a German version, which Ambrose Lob wasser adapted
to the French tunes. This work having been revised by
Martin Opitz, was appended to later editions of the German
Hymnal. A Polish version was produced by Rybinius.

In addition to the brief Latin History of the Unitas
Fratrum by Blahosla"\v, of which work we have spoken in
another connection, and the more voluminous History in
Bohemian, which we have repeatedly cited and whose
authorship is doubtful, three other Historical Treatises claim

John Lasitius, a Polish nobleman, visited some of the
Bohemian churches of the Brethren and was so impressed
with their apostolic character that he determined to write a
History of the Unitas Fratrum. He says :

" When I beheld Avith mine own eyes what Ignatius, Justin
and Tertullian report of the primitive Christians, it seemed
to me as though I were at Ephesus, or Thessalonica, or in the
midst of some other church founded by the Apostles. Truly,
most unreasonable are all those who find fault with the Brethren !

•* George Strejc, or Vetter, was ordained to the priesthood in 1567 ;
became a member of the Executive Council; was a learned and diligent
scholar and a hymnologist; and exercised no little influence in the Church.
At the time of his death he was priest of the parish at Schlowitz, in
Moravia. He died on Friday after the second Sunday after Epiphany,
1599. Todtenbuch, p. 91.


Bohemia does not recoguize, Moravia does not know, what they
are ; otherwise these countries would honor and love them.
They are worthy to govern the whole Church, if it is to revive
and regain its apostolic power." "

Supplied by the Bishops with the necessary documents
Lasitius began his work subsequent to 1567, and finished
it about 1570. On the twenty-third of March he sent the
manuscript to John Lorenz. It Avas to be submitted to the
Bishops and, with their approval, published. But they
hesitated to give their approval. Beza, whom Lasitius
consulted, advised him to undertake a thorough revision,
omitting everything that seemed marvelous. If this were
done, he promised to -write a preface. Riklinger, to whom
the manuscript was submitted by Cepolla, at Wittenberg, in
1571, severely criticised the work. Its style was faulty, he
said, and its author superstitious. Even Blahoslaw, in a
letter to Lasitius written in the same year, although favoring
the History and sending additional materials, gave him an
unmistakable hint that the Bishops would prefer if, for the
time being, it remained in manuscript.^" Hence it was not
printed. Whde the manuscript had been in the hands of
the Bishops, Turnovius had enriched it with copious anno-
tations; and now Lasitius himself began a careful revision.
This was completed in 1599, at Czaslau, in Lithuania; and
the revised work, carrying the history of the Brethren to the
year 1575, was dedicated to Charles von Zerotin. But even
now it was not published."

At the request of the Bishops, Professor Joachim Camera-
rius, of the University of Leipzig, consented to write a History
of the Unity.^^ This work was found completed among his
papers, after his death in 1574; but it was not published
until 1605, when his grand-son, Lewis Camerarius, brought

» Croeger, II. pp. 100 and 101.

^^ Authorities for the above, letters in Quellen, pp. 379, 380, etc., and 325.
*i Comenius, in 1648, published the eighth Book and the Contents of the
other Books.

'■^ Quellen, p. 343, compared with p. 347.

Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 37 of 64)